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Holiday Health Hazards for Pets

December is here, and with it, the hustle and bustle of getting ready for those end-of-the-year holidays. Whether your traditions are the same every year, or you are planning new activities, it is always a good idea to review those plans through the lens of pet safety. Evaluate your home for these potential pet dangers this season.

  1. Christmas Trees:  Whether real or artificial, Christmas trees can present problems for your pet. You may have seen funny videos of cats climbing up Christmas trees on social media…this is certainly NOT humorous if your cat or dog knocks down the tree and injures him/herself or breaks the glass ornament passed on to you from your grandma. Make sure your tree is tightly secured so that there is no chance of it tipping or falling over, causing injury to your pet. The water used to keep a real tree fresh can be a health hazard for dogs and cats; it may contain bacteria, mold, or fertilizer and other chemicals that can be toxic to your pet. Make sure the tree water is covered and inaccessible. Pets consuming real or artificial tree needles can develop stomach upset or bowel obstructions; be sure to keep needles picked up.
  2. Other Holiday Plants: Many of us know that Poinsettias can be harmful to our pets. While these plants can cause mild to moderate gastrointestinal irritation, there are other plants that pose an even greater risk of nausea, stomach upset, toxicity, and even cardiovascular problems. They include Amaryllis, Chrysanthemums, Evergreens, Holly, Ivy, Juniper, Lily, and Mistletoe.
  3. Holiday Decorations: No matter how many precautions we take, accidents can happen. Even if your pet does not possess a curious temperament, it is best to not make any assumptions when it comes to holiday decorations. Unbreakable Christmas tree ornaments are best; however, if you really want to display your treasured breakable ornaments, hang them out of reach of pups and kitties. Tinsel and ribbons are often too tempting for pets, especially cats. Ingesting these items can cause vomiting and a worse-case scenario - an intestinal blockage with possible emergency surgery. Pets can also be curious about lights, wires, and electrical cords, so it is best to keep them out of reach. Chewing on lights, wires, and electrical cords can deliver an electrical shock. Use electrical cord covers and cord organizers, making sure tree lights are tucked well inside tree branches.
  4. Wrapped Gifts:  Storing wrapped presents under the tree or in other rooms on the floor can pose a threat to curious cats and dogs depending on their contents. Be sure to keep any wrapped food or treats up and away from your furry friends. Just because you can’t see the contents, doesn’t mean your pets can’t smell them. Aside from the gift contents, the wrap itself, if consumed, can cause bowel obstruction and perforation.
  5. Holiday Food and Drink: I recently added a Holiday Food Guide for Petsto my website. The warnings about chocolate are included in the guide, but did you know that the darker the chocolate, the more toxic it can be to our furry companions? Baker’s chocolate and cocoa powder are more dangerous to our pets than milk chocolate. Ingested raw yeast dough can block or rupture the internal organs, potentially causing seizures and respiratory problems. It is also a good idea to keep trash can lids secured. Monitoring trash cans while hosting a party can save you and your pet a trip to the emergency veterinary hospital. Make sure alcohol is not lurking in places you might not consider during the regular calendar year.
  6. Hosting Parties and Entertaining Guests:  Be sure to remind guests to close the door behind them when they enter your house. Keep purses and shopping bags out of reach. Purse contents can include sugar-free gum or candies containing xylitol, which is deadly when consumed by pets. Make sure your pet has a safe, quiet place in your home to escape and relax from company. It is up to you to make sure your guests and your pets understand the boundaries and rules of the house. Those rules should not change just because you are celebrating the holidays. Ask visitors to keep prescription and over-the-counter medications secure and out of reach. 
  7. Fire Safety:  Do not leave pets unsupervised around lit candles, outdoor fires, and fireplaces. Cats are often drawn to the warmth of a candle or fireplace and they may get too close to stay safe. Pay special attention to kittens – they may singe their whiskers or burn their paws if they explore too closely. A long tail or a curious paw could knock over a lit candle and potentially start a fire or burn your pet.
  8. Batteries: Keep small toys and loose batteries off the floor, away from the mouth of a pet. In addition to acid, batteries contain zinc, which can cause pancreatitis and kidney damage if ingested by a pet. Batteries come in all shapes and sizes, some small enough to be swallowed. Make sure toys, watches, remote controls, and even greeting cards are not within reach of your furry family members.
  9. Fireworks and Noisemakers: Fireworks and noisemakers are often used in New Year’s celebrations. Your action plan to keep your pet anxiety-free and safe in your home on the 4th of July can also be applied on New Year’s Eve. There are many natural calming aids you can use, including CBD products, Homeopathic Products, and Flower Essences.

We hope you enjoy a happy and safe holiday season this year! The information in this blog is helpful not just between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, but any time of the year for celebrations and hosting overnight guests. 

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